LAS VEGAS -- You’re liable to see or hear anything during a weekend in Las Vegas. For example, the random guy in the taxi line who declared, “I smell like awesome.” Um, OK. The sights and sounds during the Clippers-Nuggets preseason game Saturday night -- the first basketball game ever played at the Mandalay Bay Events Center -- were far more standard. Here’s a few that stood out:
The Clippers leave for China on Sunday and Chris Paul said he hopes to begin full practices while they are there. He won’t play in the two games against the Miami Heat, but Paul said he expects to be on the court before the Clippers finish their remaining five preseason games.
Meanwhile, Eric Bledsoe played great starting at point guard in Paul’s absence. Bledsoe had 25 points, eight rebounds and six assists and made a reverse layup that tied the score with 1.9 seconds remaining.
His Nuggets counterpart, Ty Lawson, was the star of the night, primarily because he made a layup just before time expired to give the Nuggets a 106-104 victory, saving everyone from the horror of a preseason overtime game.
Denver’s second unit did well, even against the Clippers’ starters. In the second quarter, the Nuggets’ bench carried them to the lead they held most of the night. Jordan Hamilton’s 17 points, (including three 3-pointers) were the highlight, and Corey Brewer scored 16.
DeAndre Jordan showed off his new offensive skills right from the outset, using an up-and-under move to get a dunk on the Clippers’ first possession. He made 7 of 10 shots overall, and as one pleasantly surprised Clippers fan said from the stands, “Post moves? Post moves?” Jordan also played with a surly disposition throughout the game. Every team could use a 6-foot-11 guy with an attitude.
Blake Griffin’s retooled shot didn’t work so well. He fired his first jumper over the rim and missed four of his six free throws. Griffin’s only two field goals came on fast-break dunks. “I was somewhat OK with it, because I was missing long,” Griffin said. “I don’t want to miss short. When I’m missing short, it’s bad for me. Missing long is OK. As far as the first-game game speed and all that, it was OK. I’m sure I’ll be much better.”
Anthony Randolph sighting! His shot was smooth, and he drained 4 of 7 to score eight points, along with seven rebounds in 18 minutes.
A couple of Nuggets moments that we’ll probably see a lot more of this season: Andre Iguodala deflecting a pass and going the other way for a dunk, and a JaVale McGee blocked shot leading to a Ty Lawson fast-break layup.
Danilo Gallinari made a last-minute 3-pointer, then kissed his fingers like he just finished off a tasty meal. “That’s my new thing this year,” Gallinari said.